An interview with Ebony Francis, Alexandrina Hemsley & Seke Chimuntenwende
In advance of ‘Research Network: Predictions, Projections and Speculations‘ at the Stuart Hall Library, we caught up with the participating artists.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and areas of interest.
Ebony: I am a Londoner, inspired by the world, cultures, nature and my own ever changing lens of “reality”.
Alexandrina: I’m an artist gathering up my experiences, simultaneously looking inwards and outwards, carrying and moving through a racialised, gendered body. I am drawn to dancing, writing and choreographing because I enjoy the process of turning the volume up on embodied knowledge that run counter to the oppressive agendas of white supremacist patriarchy. I am keen to hone my/the sensitivity needed to express intersectional politics and currently interested in morphing my body’s narratives as a soft resistance to objectification and reductive representations.
Seke: I trained in contemporary dance and went on to work extensively with improvisation in performance, experimental choreography and physical theatre. I’m interested in the relationships between improvisation and choreography and narrative and abstraction in performance.
What are you working on or researching at the moment?
Ebony: The psychosomatic manifestation of dis-ease and how explore the 4th dimension with my performance art.
Seke: We are researching the history of the universe from an afrofuturist perspective, filling in the black holes in history and doing our bit to save the universe from eating itself alive! An epic black history, on a cosmic scale, time travelling from the dawn of time into the impossibly distant future.
Alexandrina: This research feels playful and crucial, loving and raging, politically expansive and deeply personal. We incorporated our writing and movement practices as a work-in-progress version of our choreography ‘Black Holes’ last autumn. ‘Age of The Forgetful Galaxies’ will be a reading from our next stage of writing for this work.
Why did you apply for the Research Network? Why were you interested in the theme of Virtualities?
Ebony: I love the work that happens through research and networks provide opportunities to collaborate and share. Virtualities are being explored in ways that shift and change in real time due to social media and the internet, as realities that seem less real are made real sometimes just by being imagined.
Seke: For me the theme of Virtualities relates to my interest in reimagining the future. Recognising the problems of the past and present and finding a way to move forward to the world that we want. I am curious to see what positioning our fantastical imaginings in a more research/academic context does to our work and to the setting of the Research Network.
Alexandrina: Yes I agree.
What are you hoping this experience will bring to your practice?
Ebony: I hope this experience will allow me to play with performance in new ways, exploring this notion of performing without performing.
Alexandrina: I’m hoping that reading a segment of the writing Seke and I are doing for Black Holes will give us a chance to see how the language we use lands away from the page. I’m curious to see the senses of journeying we can convey, what connections can be made between our and the audience’s imaginations as we fill the origin of the universe with different (re)tellings; relishing in the fictional and the speculative.
I also hope to we are able to bring the past in close proximity with the present/future. In 2015, Oxford Union had a cocktail called ‘The Colonial Comeback’. This shit is close.
What would you like the audience to take away from this?
Ebony: That we can laugh at these concepts we create, whilst at the same time thinking of way of making new ones, we should never stop asking if what we think today is valid to tomorrow.
Seke: I would like the audience to feel hopeful and energised. I hope what we do provokes questions and conversations around race, history, representation and the future.
Alexandrina: I wouldn’t want to guess.
Seke Chimutengwende works in dance as a performer, choreographer and teacher. As a performer he has worked with companies such as DV8 Physical Theatre, Lost Dog and Fabulous Beast.For his company Seke Chimutengwende & Friends he has choreographed four works including The Time Travel Piecefor The Place Prize 2012 and King Arthur, which premiered at The Yard Theatre in 2015. Seke is currently researching a new group piece exploring the relationship between political revolutions and artistic revolutions called Mass, Material and Disturbance.
Alexandrina Hemsley is a dance artist and writer making work that aims to reclaim her identity as a mixed-race woman and tries to engage with the various cultural frameworks that mark her body on her own terms. Her practice is frequently interdisciplinary and Alexandrina is one part of duo Project O with Jamila Johnson-Small and she works with Helena Webb & Rosie Heafford on Dad Dancing. Alexandrina has also collaborated with artist Katarzyna Perlak on photograph series Bounty Bars & Oreo Cookies. Her writing practice finds its home on Feminist Shakedown.
Ebony Francis (www.diaryofablacktree.london) approaches her practice under the premise that all of her work is ostensibly all about her, externalized and internalized through the various environments to which she belongs. This work is her “diary”. Often she uses her own body or other bodies or “things” that she feels can describe or represent her. Dabbling in photographic collage, film, installation and performance art she incorporates all of her education, learning, development and many years of travel, work and connections made around the world. Driven by the black body politic she centers on themes including racial identity, cultural imperialism and heritage.